By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AN outspoken environmentalist is furious over the protracted delay by a government agency to approve a licence to replant mangroves as part of a major restoration project on Grand Bahama.
Joseph Darville, of Save the Bays (STB) and Waterkeepers Bahamas (WKB), said they are still awaiting approval for an application made last September to the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) by WKB requesting a permit to replant propagules at Dover’s Sound.
“I am eternally aggravated by this to the extent that I will go out there and do it and have pictures taken and if they want to put me in jail, they can do it because this is absolutely absurd,” he said. “They should come running to us saying here is the permit.”
WKB launched ‘Mangrove Mania’, which was officially opened by Mrs Ann Marie Davis, the wife of Prime Minister Philip Davis, on May 14 at Coral Vita. About 3,000 potted mangrove propagules are growing in a nursery at the site.
Mr Darville said the organization has already paid for the permit.
“We applied way back in September for a permit from the environmental department, and up to now they come up with everything, and said we got to submit this and that even though we have paid for the permit,” he said.
“Everybody is becoming totally frustrated. We are not foreigners, we are Bahamians (who) are passionate about regrowing the mangroves for the protection of the islands and regenerating those areas which are the nursery for fisheries.
“Every now and then they give us some mysterious reason why we are not getting the permit.”
The well-known environmental activist was also bothered by inferences of them harming existing mangroves.
“I was told...that they were concerned we were taking the baby propagules from a challenged area which is absolutely absurd,” Mr Darville stated.
He assured the public that WKB has provided the agency with a proper detailed plan outlining how it intends to execute the project and brought in expert professionals from around the world who have experience with over 75 different mangrove species.
According to Mr Darville, only four mangrove species are in The Bahamas.
“They came and gave us information that we did not even know where to plant and how to deal with them. So, we are trained professionals to do this - we are not pirates in our own country,” he stressed.
Mr Darville said teams have gone out and collected propagules in areas of Grand Bahama, posing no threat to existing mangroves. He noted that baby propagules drop from the mature trees. They are about six to eight inches and shaped like a pencil.
“They have a heavy end and can float around in the water and have intelligence enough to sink in the mud when they find an appropriate time to grow and become mangrove trees,” he explained.
“We have collected almost 3,000, and we have them out at the nursery by Coral Vita, and we had the ‘Mangrove Mania’ opening by the wife of the Prime Minister, Ann Marie Davis. And even with that particular publicity, we still do not have a permit in hand.
“Why in God’s name do Bahamian environmentalists like myself who care so adamantly about the environment need a permit to plant a tree that will produce and be beneficial to the environment?” he asked.
“I am becoming frustrated,” Darville said, adding that he would do “whatever is necessary to care for Mother Earth.”
Grand Bahama lost 70 percent of its mangroves during Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.
This accounts for over 22,000 acres of red mangroves, which formed a protective barrier from the ocean and served as a nursery for fish and other marine life.
The island of Abaco and the cays also sustained significant destruction of its mangrove forest.
Mr Darville said that WKB hopes to begin the replanting exercise in the Fall.
With their help, it will take about 25 to 30 years to regrow mangroves, much faster than the natural way.
“We are assisting ‘Mother Earth,’ we are giving her a hand,” Mr Darville said.